Rick Shiomi’s groundbreaking first play Yellow Fever, premiered at the Asian American Theater Company in 1982, winning awards and leading to Pan Asian Repertory Theatre’s New York production, which garnered rave reviews in the New York Times and New Yorker. Yellow Fever is now considered a mainstay of the Asian American playwriting canon. At present Rick Shiomi is the author of over twenty plays and remains very active as a playwright. He’s currently working on Fire in the New World, the third in his trilogy of plays (including Yellow Fever and Rosie’s Cafe) featuring Japanese Canadian detective Sam Shikaze grappling with post-World War II racism in the Powell Street area of Vancouver. Shiomi's completion of this trilogy will be included in his larger plan for an eight-play cycle, “A Hundred Years of the Japanese Canadians, 1890 to 1990,” based on his family’s stories, and inspired by American playwright August Wilson’s ten plays of his Pittsburgh or Century Cycle exploring 100 years of African American experience. This cycle will explore the Japanese Canadian/American experience from immigration in the 1890s when Shiomi’s grandfather arrived in Vancouver through to the 1980s-1990s when the Japanese Canadians received Redress and Reparations from the Canadian government for the great injustices of the internment camps.
Playwright - History
Rick Shiomi began his theater career in San Francisco, California at the Asian American Theater Company where his first play Yellow Fever was produced in March 1982, for which he received the 1982 Bay Area Theater Circle Critics Award and a “Bernie” Award for New Play from the San Francisco Chronicle. Yellow Fever was produced by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in December 1982 and then had a successful Off-Broadway run in 1983. Pan Asian Repertory Theatre has produced several of Shiomi’s plays, including a prequel to Yellow Fever entitled Rosie's Cafe and a sequel, Once is Never Enough, co-authored with Marc Hayashi and Lane Kiyomi Nishikawa.
Yellow Fever remains a classic in the canon of the Asian American/Canadian theatre movement. His other important early works include Rosie's Cafe, Play Ball, and Uncle Tadao. Play Ball was produced at Pan Asian Repertory and Uncle Tadao was produced at both East West Players in Los Angeles and the Asian American Theater Company. Rosie's Cafe has been toured across Canada and the United States. Both Rosie’s Cafe and Yellow Fever have been produced in Japanese (translations by Toyoshi Yoshihara) in Tokyo, Japan.
From 1993 to 2013 Shiomi wrote a number of plays for Mu Performing Arts while he was Artistic Director there. The first of these was Mask Dance, based upon the stories of young Korean adoptees who were early participants in the company. Mask Dance incorporated a traditional performance form, Korean mask dance, into a contemporary Asian American story. Other plays written in this style were Song of the Pipa and The Tale of the Dancing Crane. Shiomi co-wrote the play The Walleye Kid with Sundraya Kase, which he adapted from a traditional Japanese fable titled “Peach Boy”, and the play was produced in 1999. The original story tells of a Japanese child who is found inside a peach and adopted by the old couple that discovered him. In The Walleye Kid, Shiomi has moved the setting from Japan to Minnesota where the baby emerges from a giant Walleye, exploring what Asian, specifically Korean, adoptees have experienced as they adapt to life in America. Walleye Kid, The Musical, which Shiomi adapted from this play, was produced in 2008 by Mu Performing Arts at the McKnight Theatre of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. In 2002, Shiomi co-authored Hmong Tiger Tales with Cha Yang, which was co-produced at the Weyerhauser Auditorium by Mu Performing Arts and St. Paul's Steppingstone Theatre For Youth.
Photo by Lia Chang